Saturday, April 12, 2008

20k on a "spring" day

This morning, I hopped in The Silver Hornet and headed to the southeastern Minnesota city of Rochester. I would be running in my first longer (by my standards) race of the season, the Dr. Steven Fetzer Memorial 20k. As you can see from the picture below, it was a spectacularly gorgeous day for running...

The snowy, sleety start line of the Dr. Steven Fetzer 20k...yikes!

If you saw my previous post, Minnesota was ravaged by a winter storm on Thursday and Friday. The remnants of that storm were still impacting the state today with snow showers and fierce winds out of the north.

The race was headquartered at the Bamber Valley school, and most of us spent our warm up time...well, staying warm in the gym. Nobody was going to go outside until they had to. Unrelated to anything, while I was in the gym I took a picture of the school mascot on the wall just because I thought that was one of the cutest sports logos I have ever seen!

I think the mascot is saying, "Let's get this dam race over with! It's cold out!" :)

In spite of the weather, everyone was in a fantastic mood. I think we are all a bit loopy from the long winter, and we were just excited about that fact that the race season was starting up. The runners were all smiling, and the race director and volunteers were great to us. They even made personalized race bibs for the preregistered runners. How cool is that?

A nice personal touch!

The race course was just about entirely flat and took us along the bike trails down by the Zumbro River. It was a very cool route, and I would imagine this place would look spectacular in the summer and fall.

Chilly runners at the start

There is something abut the combination of damp + wind that is positively bone chilling. Even at 30 degrees, which is mild compared to what I ran through this winter. It actually feels more comfortable to run on a crisp zero degree day. I don't think I have ever felt so cold at a race. For the first mile, I couldn't feel my toes, and my gloved hands were freezing as well. Are we insane?

Running was challenging at times, as there were some patchy areas of slush to negotiate, and also a slippery bridge crossing. I kept thinking that it could have been much worse. Southern Minnesota was really spared the brunt of this last storm.

The course did a little bit of an out-and-back, so you got met by the faster runners, and also met slower runners on the return route. It was remarkable how enthusiastic everyone was. Runners were greeting each other, wishing people well, and offering encouragement to all.

Earlier in the race I was running with a small pack of people. We had just crossed the 4 mile mark when a runner behind me said to the guy he was running with, "8:30!" (He was telling his friend their pace for the last mile). Another runner just ahead of us and within earshot partially heard this and replied back, "What was that?"

The runner behind me replied, "We went through the last mile in 8:30. But you were a little bit ahead of us, so I am sure you went through in at least 7:20!" All of us exploded into laughter!

Hey, it's cold, windy as hell, and we're all freezing...but darn it if we aren't having a good time!

And may God bless the people who volunteered at this event. Those people at the aid stations and directing us at intersection; they all had to stand in the cold. Running in the cold isn't so bad, but standing in it absolutely sucks. Yet, they all smiled, patted us on the back, cheered us on, and slapped us high-fives. Wow, what a bunch of rock stars! I have never seen better. Thank you all, you were marvelous!

As for my race, I ran a steady pace and felt really good all day, even heading into the wind (which was brutal at times when we hit an unsheltered opening along the river). Although, for some reason it worked out that the wind was either at our backs, or at least helping, for the last three miles. That never happens! :)

I crossed the finish line in 1 hour, 44 minutes, and 12 seconds (full race results here), and I was very pleased. Coming off of a brutal winter for running, I had some doubts as to what kind of shape I was in. This erased all my doubts. I am very excited for the spring (whenever it arrives) and summer months.

For the return trip home, I took the scenic route, driving through the small towns of Kasson, Mantorville, Wanamingo, and Kenyon. The snow showers had subsided, and the driving was more pleasant. This is simply a beautiful area of the state consisting of vast farmland that is dotted with pockets of woods. My Dad is from this area, and it is always fun to go through here.

The historic Hubbell House in Mantorville

Had I not been all grubby from my run, I would have loved to have stopped at this place for lunch, the Hubbell House in Mantorville. Mantorville is a beautiful old town (and not in a cliché, touristy way), and the restaurant has a history dating back to 1854 (four years before Minnesota became a state for any of you keeping score). I am thinking this might be worthy of a Sunday drive in the future. On a warmer day, perhaps!

Anyhow, it was a nice drive home. And tonight, I will practice my semi-regular post-race tradition of getting some Chinese take-out for dinner, and then settle in for the NASCAR night race from Phoenix! A good way to end an even better day at the races.

Until next time,

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